When the University of Akron football team takes the field for the annual Blue & Gold game at 1 p.m. today at InfoCision Stadium, the goal will be simple for coach Terry Bowden’s staff.
“You’ve got a chance to go out there in a game-like situation and show us you can play,” Bowden said after a walk-through Friday. “Show us what you can do with a coach not standing behind you telling you what to do.”
That task sounds simple, but the players will have to prove it so.
Bowden and his staff will look at how evenly matched units perform against one another. They want to see the first-team defense against the first-team offense and so on.
“I think some are solidified, but I think that some are tight enough where [today] could be a difference maker for several positions,” Bowden said.
The quarterback position is solidified, but there are plenty of other issues facing the Zips in their practice game.
• The offensive line continues to be an issue because of the loss of the entire right side from last year and trying to integrate Jarrod Pughsley and Cedric Brittnum into positions there. It hasn’t helped that Pughsley has been unavailable in recent days because of an ankle sprain.
• The backup quarterback position seems set for now. Dalton Easton seems to be confident in what he has done on the field, and he has shown enough to merit the No. 2 designation. But by no means is that etched in stone. Easton and teammate Steve Franco haven’t done enough to push starter Kyle Pohl. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a transfer come in to fill the backup role. Easton and Franco have to show something.
• The third player in the running back rotation will be perused. Sophomore Hakeem Lawrence recovered from an injury, but Ravenna’s D.J. Jones, a freshman, opened some eyes. Lawrence has shown the burst of speed in recent practices, so this could be a battle.
• With a rotation that features a plethora of wide receivers, none has really stood head and shoulders above the others. That could change with this game.
The players who perform well and go into summer practice on the first team will have an advantage.
“Everything we can do to solidify a position allows us a better opportunity to develop the use of that position,” Bowden said.
When the class of 2013 arrives on campus, there are players that might come in and make their presence known. Mykel Traylor-Bennett and Austin Wolf both stand 6-foot-4 and could make great targets as outside receivers.
Junior college transfers are expected to bolster the Zips at linebacker and on the defensive line.
“We’re looking for guys to give individual effort and for everyone to play hard,” Bowden said of today’s game. “ It’s another opportunity to see which guys are going to make a great block, a great tackle or great throw or catch and make something happen.”
The UA Athletics Department will hold the second of two forums seeking input into its direction before the spring game at noon on the FirstMerit Foundation Club Level of InfoCision Stadium. Director of Athletics Tom Wistrcill will attend.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.